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Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, C, February 10, 2013 Lectionary index # 75B

A digest for the congregation: Arrange with your liturgy committee to have these brief historical introductions read to the assembly before you do each reading.

The presider may speak these before the first and second readings, and before rising for the gospel acclamation. Print this page, cut it at the blue lines, and give the introduction paragraphs to the person who will speak them.

Fifth Sunday or Ordinary Time, Year C, February 10, 2013
Before the first reading:

Kings of ancient Judah wavered between faithfulness and independence from God. As a new king came to power, Isaiah, at a Temple liturgy, accepts a call to prophesy before the king.
Between psalm and second reading:

In prior weeks we've heard what a boisterous church was in early Corinth. Some members challenged Saint Paul's credentials and his teaching about the resurrection. This is part of Paul's response.
Before the gospel acclamation:

[Speak no introduction to this familiar passage.]

To pay for use of the words above, please subtract an equal number of optional words from other places in the liturgy (click here for some suggestions).

First reading, Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

Our Liturgical Setting: To prepare for today's first reading, review first today's gospel, Luke 5:1-11. Note that the disciples are just getting to know Jesus, who is gradually, by his deeds more than by words, revealing himself. Note at least these two themes common to both the gospel passage and the Isaiah reading:

Interestingly, our second reading describes the call of another unworthy apostle. (Interestingly because the lectionary's cycle of second readings and its cycle of gospel passages are independent of each other; each Sunday's gospel governs the choice of only the first reading.)

The Historical Background: In the late eighth century B.C.E., God's people in the promised land had become divided into a northern kingdom, Israel, and a southern kingdom, Judah. On the outside, Assyria was the dominant power in the region. A fourth nation, Syria, was vying for power, and trying to recruit Israel into its plots. Kings in Israel and Judah would sometimes entertain these schemes, and at other times rely faithfully on the Lord God to sustain them. This is the situation in which Isaiah finds himself called to speak God's word.

The Theological Background: Isaiah's vision expresses the ancient notion of God at a great remove from sinful humanity, across a gulf that can be bridged only by intermediaries like angels, and a gulf across which we can seldom even see. Yet God's angel reaches across that chasm to empower the humble prophet. Perhaps he needed to stress this in order to establish his credentials, since he was to speak to a king a divine alternative to a faithless royal scheme.

A Novel Approach to Your Proclamation: Imagine how you would direct Isaiah's vocation scene in a movie. After the angels cry out and the doorframe shakes and the house is filled with smoke, you'd order the camera to focus on Isaiah's dumbstruck face. But you'd make Isaiah pause before speaking. The camera would linger on him, as his silence tells what's in his heart. So as lector, pause before relating Isaiah's first words. When you do speak, your tone of voice should reveal the great contrast you feel between what you've seen and what you know of yourself.

Pause again before and in the middle of the last paragraph of dialogue. The Lord should sound majestic, authoritative, yet genuinely in need of a human ambassador. Pause. Then, in a different, confident tone, state Isaiah's "Here I am. Send me."

Second Reading, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical Background: Corinth was a boisterous Greek seaport, and its early Christians did not exactly shed their culture at the church door. As we saw one,  two,  and  three Sundays ago, Paul had to corral their extravagant and sometimes self-serving use of the spiritual gifts. On Holy Thursday, we saw how they needed to be reminded of their table manners, and of sound doctrine, when celebrating the Lord's Supper.

So perhaps it shouldn't surprise us that some Corinthians questioned Paul's authority and disputed the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. Paul addresses the latter question in next week's second reading, 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, but he prepares for that argument by reviewing the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. This consists of the testimony of known, reliable witnesses, and Paul's own vision of the risen Christ.

Proclaiming the Resurrection Witness (verses 1-7): To proclaim this part, imagine yourself not a movie director, but a trial lawyer giving your final argument to the jury. You summarize the items of evidence and witnesses' testimony one at a time, methodically and rhythmically.

Proclaiming Paul's Apostolic Credentials (verses 8-11): Paul's calling to be an apostle, unlike the calling of Peter, James and John in today's gospel, did not come from the itinerant rabbi Jesus in any ordinary setting, but from the risen Christ in a vision that left Paul blind. Nor did Paul have the neutral, uncommitted background of the other apostles; rather, he was an active persecutor of Christians, a smug witness to the first execution of a Christian martyr. So his claim to apostolic authority needs some backing up. His proofs:

This is a lot to get across in one oral proclamation. So go slowly and do it with Paul's absolute confidence in both the truth and the importance of what you're saying.

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Several other commentaries on these passages. All are thoughtful, all quite readable, from the scholarly to the popular.
Links may be incomplete more than a few weeks before the "due date."
Father Roger Karban of Belleville, Illinois, USA, writes a newspaper column about every Sunday's readings. Here are his essays for today's passages, from: courtesy of The Evangelist, official publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York, or of The Belleville Messenger, of the Diocese of Belleville.

Read all of Father Karban's recent columns here, at the site of FOSIL, the Faithful of Southern Illinois.

Lutheran pastor and college teacher Dan Nelson's notes for a study group
Dan's undated page has the heading "Epiphany 5."

Archived (from 2004) weekly column of the late Father Francis X. Cleary, S.J. (Log in using 0026437 and 63137)

The Text This Week; links to homilies, art works, movies and other resources on the week's scripture themes Saint Louis University's excellent Sunday liturgy-preparation site

(Caveat lector. As of December 16, 2012, Lector's Notes' author is speculating about the exact URL of SLU's offering, since it's not yet posted. If you get a 404 Not Found, try here).

The Lectionary selections in the frame at the left, if any, are there for your convenience. The publishers of the page in that frame have no connection, except for membership in the one Body of Christ, with the publisher of this page. Likewise the publishers of the pages on the links above.

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Last modified: December 16, 2012